After 12 years as a professional bike racer, four-time Irish road champion Matt Brammeier has made a swift transition into retirement, taking on the job of Lead Academy Coach for British Cycling.
Brammeier most recently rode for the ill-fated Aqua Blue Sport but has also put in sterling work for his various leaders at MTN Qhubeka, Quick Step and HTC-Highroad.
He joins British Cycling at a moment in time when confidence in the ability of Britain’s elite riders could not be higher, but how is the next generation of Grand Tour winners shaping up? Rouleur spoke to Brammeier about his plans.
Rouleur: How did the job come about?
Matt Brammeier: I’ve known Rod Ellingworth a long time and it was something we always chatted about. He has his ear to the ground and was looking for opportunities for me. Over the last year I was running out of motivation for racing. I still enjoy riding my bike but I’d lost the fight. This just came through at the perfect time.
Has it been a steep learning curve in the first few weeks?
Yes and no. The office stuff, the business side is new to me. I’m not used to sitting at a desk. But as transitions go it’s not too bad. There is no job similar to what I’ve been doing over the last 12 years, but this is pretty close. It’s the same world, the same people, just a different angle on things.
What’s the main focus of the role?
I’m the full-time Academy U23 coach, and on the side I’ll be managing the elite riders when they represent Great Britain, at the Olympics and Worlds. So the main focus is bringing the young riders through, helping them with their careers. And not just the training and racing, but how to live like a professional. There’s so much talent in-depth now, that makes my job that bit easier.
How different is it now for young riders, compared to when you were coming up through the ranks?
Totally different. The science is the biggest difference, and that means the level is physically a lot higher. A lot of 19 – 20 year old riders are going straight into WorldTour races and being competitive there. Everyone knows how to train. The fact that the sport is a lot cleaner gives everyone a chance. 15 years ago you wouldn’t have been able to go straight into the big races at 20 and be up there at the front.
So the physical side is there, but a few riders now need to learn how to ride their bikes, and the basics about having a career. And they need the confidence to get stuck in; at the Tour of Britain we had a pretty good week but some of the lads just needed that extra bit of confidence to help them mix with the big teams. The academy has the best support structure in cycling. I’ve seen it all and there’s nothing that compares to the support staff at British Cycling.
We’ve seen young riders in other countries combine mountain biking or cyclo-cross with road racing, to good effect. Do you support that kind of cross-pollination between disciplines?
There’s a struggle with cyclo-cross not being an Olympic sport but British Cycling are looking at investing in the future. Currently there’s no pathway for the kids there, but riding ‘cross is something that gives you a massive benefit as a rider. You learn to ride your bike, you get physical benefits too. So I’m definitely not afraid of a bit of cross-over. I’m looking to develop strength in depth in the team, have some balance between different types of riders, and give people an opportunity to ride the road if they’ve been successful elsewhere.
We would never ask you to give away your game-plan for the Worlds, but can you give us any insight into how you think the Elite Men’s Road Race will shake down?
Our team leaders are pretty self-explanatory: Simon & Adam Yates are both in the shape of their lives and are both potential winners. However we are definitely not the strongest team and we know we’ll be up against it, so it won’t be down to us to make the racing happen.
The course is one of the hardest we’ve seen, and in fact the hardest Worlds I’ve come across in my lifetime so I think it’s going to be a pretty straightforward bike race. Legs will win, that’s pretty easy to say.
Finally, does the new job mean you won’t have time to wash [elite rider wife] Nikki’s bikes at ‘cross races anymore?
Not sure I’ll be doing much bike-washing but I’ll try to get to races to support her when I can. [When Rouleur spoke to Matt he was on his way to Belgium to do just that]. Nikki’s doing a lot of coaching too now, through our project Mudiita. We both really want to put something back into the sport which has given us so much over the years.